Exam case-study / scenario question
Scenario questions are used in exams and tests as ways for students to show that they can understand and integrate key concepts of the course, apply course theories to a practical context, and demonstrate the ability to analyse and evaluate.
Scenario questions often require a longer answer, so they will be allocated more time and more marks.
Remember: There is no one right answer, but there are concepts that the lecturer will be expecting you to use. Realistic answers are better than 'way out' answers especially if cost is a factor.
Practise analysing cases or practical situations; note the course concepts that apply to the set scenario. Look for certain activities or lack of them as clues to what concepts you might focus on. Stick to the concepts in your course.
- It is easy in communication scenarios to get sidetracked onto management issues, for example. Something like management structure would only be mentioned in a communication answer in relation to changing/improving the communication within the organisation.
Learn and rehearse the key concepts, theories, models and protocols so you and apply them in the exam quickly.
- For example, if you think planning is a concept that is usually part of a scenario - then learn about the different kinds of plans, how they should be used and when they should be written and reviewed.
- If you think a scenario will include the protocols and tests for a particular farm/disease/animal/case, then learn the basic protocol, sequence and types of tests (soil/blood/urine, etc) so that you have the basics for creating a more specific answer (flash cards, mind maps and acronyms would be useful for this).
Strategies for answering questions
- Analyse and interpet the question carefully. Look for command words and any specific focus(es).
- Skim read the scenario to get the big picture.
- Read again slowly, underlining words or numbers that relate to course concepts or indicate a particular kind of problem.
- On a separate piece of paper (your can ask for extra paper in the exam), use each of these issues (the words you have located and underlined) as a heading and list the course concepts or theories (and theorists) that underlie or match them. You could do this as a mind map too. Recall (and add) relevant acronyms, definitions, details and examples.
- Think how you will integrate your answer. Remember you will have to mention both the issue from the scenario and the course material that relates. Try to demonstrate the implications of implementing your solutions(s)/plan/intervention/ model. Include the influence of external agents and possible conflicts of interest.
- Decide which issue you will deal with first. If there is an expected sequence (as in a diagnostic scenario) follow that order.
Otherwise, EITHER write on the issue that you know is a core concept in the course (and which you have therefore learned well) first OR write on the issue about which you know most first.
- Check again that you are following the command(s). For example, if the question asks you to make recommendations - have you included these?
- Keep writing until you have covered each of the issues you located or until the 40/60 minutes are up. If a scenario is worth 20 marks make at least five different points about four different concepts.
- Leave a page and move on to the next question. Come back and write more if you need, if you have time.
An alternative strategy: if you find the scenario difficult to analyse, work in reverse:
- Use a sheet of paper to list the course concepts that relate to the scenario topic, especially those you have noted in scenarios from other exam papers.
- Then reread the scenario looking for identifiers of positive or negative instances where these concepts apply.
- Construct an answer as described in steps 5-9.